Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Diana Bishop is currently in Oxford finishing up her research on alchemy at the Bodleian Library. Her research is going smoothly until she comes across a rare (and magical) manuscript called the Ashmole 782. It's then that her past and present life clash. Diana grew up in a household of powerful witches, but after her parents mysterious deaths Diana has cut herself off from her magic and the witch community. But the Ashmole has created a stir amongst the witches, vampires, and daemons, and their interest is focusing on Diana. With the help of Matthew Clairmont, an enigmatic vampire, she is slowly piecing together the mystery of her past, her powers, and the beginnings of life itself.
Wow, I can't believe that I summed up the entire book in so few sentences. The thing is pretty massive at 592 pages, and truly that's more or less the entire plot. And yet it's so much more! I think that I enjoyed this book so much because it took it's time. Deborah Harkness obviously knows where her plot is going and is not stringing you along trying to stretch tired plot lines that have no meaning. At the same time she's not afraid to take her time and give you fun and interesting details about wine, rowing, art, yoga, and history. I like that. I think some of the best books I've ever read have those qualities: Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings being some examples. It was such a relief to see such depth in detail. Perhaps I've gotten a little YA fatigued; it seems like the last couple of books I've read have been so terribly adequate, nothing really special to them. They either seemed to not have enough detail, or were obviously just trying to get you to just interested enough to go out and buy the sequel. I didn't feel this way with the Discovery of Witches. The slower pace and wealth of information was so refreshing and enjoyable!
Okay... moving on from the details, I also liked the characters that she developed. Especially the secondary characters! I L-O-V-E Diana's Aunt Sarah and her partner Em, they were gems. Matthew's son Marcus was quite wonderful, as was his research assistant Miriam. They all had such personality and history to them. There's obviously back-stories to the people that we will never know because it's all locked up in Deborah Harkness's head! But you can tell it's there, and it really adds to the story.
There are a couple little spoilers that I'm going to be talking about, after the jump but they also have to do with my critiques. You've been forewarned, your call.
Here are my two gripes, and let's be honest they're kind of insignificant, one is that I'm not quite sure why Matthew and Diana fall in love. I mean it just kind of seems like they're at one point trying to figure one another out and the next page they're declaring their love. I wasn't sure why they cared. I mean I know that Diana finds Matthew attractive, but I don't ever really get why Matthew falls for Diana. The chapter that's supposed to explain it seems to leave me with the assumption that he's fascinated by her, kinda bordering on stalkery. But I didn't really get where the all-encompassing love they felt for each other was coming from. Maybe I'm oblivious, if you've read it and feel like you've grasped what my feeble mind could not please let me know where I missed out.
My next little gripe was that my favorite parts were not when Diana and Matthew were together. My favorite parts are when Diana is usually interacting with a secondary character or inner-monologuing. It's not that it was bad between the two of them, just that I found Matthew to be a wee bit patronizing and Diana a touch whiney. But this could also be colored by my lack of insight into their relationship.
That's it though. Otherwise REALLY enjoyed this book. It took it's time where it needed to and had obvious depth to it. Awesome. If you've gone through a dry spell of reading great books, this one is solid.